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UN agencies appeal for more donor funding to tackle virus

The United Nations is calling for increased funding to help its humanitarian agencies scale up their efforts in countries that are most at risk of the coronavirus pandemic.

The heads of all the UN’s humanitarian agencies issued an appeal yesterday for $350 million (Sh37.4 billion) to help the World Food Programme (WFP) set up a logistics system to move health workers and critical equipment and cargo to areas where movement has been affected by cancelled flights and disrupted supply routes.

The WFP manages the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot where consignments of personal protective equipment are stored and dispatched.

"All elements of the Global Humanitarian Response Plan are crucial and need continued funding, but without these logistics common services, the global response could stutter to a halt," the agency heads, among them World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, said in a letter yesterday.

The UN expects that the funding will help construction of treatment centres in countries that desperately need them, as well as manage medical evacuation services for front-line workers.

The open letter signed by the 15 heads of humanitarian agencies communicated concern that cancelled flights and disrupted supply routes had disproportionately affected countries where humanitarian aid and supplies are essential to beat back the pandemic.

“In this race against an invisible enemy, all countries must fight back, but not all begin from the same starting line. It is in everyone’s interest to stop the virus from spreading unchecked, destroying lives and economies, and continuing to circle around the world," they said.

The letter is signed by the heads of the World Food Programme, World Health Organisation, United Nations Children’s Fund, UN Refugee Agency and International Organisation for Migration, United Nations Population Fund, United Nations Development Programme, Food and Agriculture Organisation among others.

They said they were inadequately funded to get relief to countries such as South Sudan and Somalia, which are ravaged by war, poverty and climate change and now face the coronavirus pandemic with weaker health systems. 

The appeal comes as US President Donald Trump said his country would halt funding for WHO, for apparently mismanaging the coronavirus pandemic.

At the same time, the UN agencies said a $2 billion global humanitarian response plan launched by Secretary-General António Guterres to fund the fight against Covid-19 in the world’s poorest countries had received pledges worth $550 million.

“The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has also released $95 million to kick-start the Covid-19 response, help contain the spread of the virus, maintain supply chains, and provide assistance and protection to the most vulnerable people, including women and girls, refugees and internally displaced persons. But more needs to be done."

The funding appeal follows ongoing attempts to raise funds by UNHCR- Kenya which is asking for donations via an M-Pesa pay bill number. 

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